Rick Gallegos, having just graduated from Florida State University, was in Tampa looking for a job. He met the owner of the Dale Carnegie Training franchise in the area and was invited to apply. That was 25 years ago. Gallegos, 49, eventually bought out his former boss and now, as president and CEO, runs the motivational and self-improvement company based on principles put forth by the author of the bestselling 1936 book How to Win Friends & Influence People. He talked with Times staff writer Philip Morgan about the psychology of shopkeeper greetings, overcoming fear of addressing crowds, and the trend of young people needing help with face-to-face communication.
I've noticed that at some stores, the cashier at the front counter shouts out a hello to everyone who walks in, even though the cashier may be busy with 10 people in line. Why do they do that?
Well, there are two parts to that. The first part is that retail is required to make contact with customers to lower theft. It's a proven principle that when they make contact, a greeting to each customer, it lowers people stealing products from them. So ... they're trained to, No. 1, connect with everybody and say, "Hi, how are you today?" as if I'm noticing you're in there ...
It has a dual purpose — it's also very friendly ... Why do people buy from one store versus the other? Typically, it's because of the friendliness of the help or the associates.
Many people take Dale Carnegie training to become better at public speaking. I've heard that is a very common and very strong fear.
It's the No. 1 fear in America. But quickly growing now, moving up, is face-to-face communication. So, (for) the millennials, 30 and below ... that's moving up very quickly right now. Because of social media and all the ways they communicate, they don't use as much face-to-face communication ...
It's easier to send a text rather than talk. What I say to an audience, how many of you have ever sent an email in a difficult situation rather than talk to a person? ... (That) makes us even more relevant now.
You point out, however, that a friendly hello won't, by itself, make a sale. What does the retailer have to do?
What does friendly really mean? It means when you walk in — say you're in a golf department store — I may say to you, "How are you doing?'' "Do you play golf much?" "Where do you play?'' And I take an interest in you. Again, it's right from Dale Carnegie, where he would say become genuinely interested in other people. So if I'm interested in you, I'm winning a friend that way. ... By being friendly, I can easily create a transactional opportunity.
Were you always able to speak before crowds?
I'd say so. I was an actor in high school, so to me, putting on a performance for 300 or 400 people in my school was easy to do. I was always a really good presenter in college, out doing presentations. I wasn't fearful of that. I was comfortable with that.
And I had my own company, since I was about 15 years old. I used to help attract leads for timeshare resorts on the gulf coasts of Florida and Mississippi. We would approach guests on the beach and try to get them to come in to tour the timeshare facilities. I did that for about six years, paid for college by doing it. But I did it for 10 weeks a year.
What was it like the first time you walked up to strangers and made a pitch?
All I can tell is the first time I had to do it, when I was probably 15 years old, or 16. The guy dropped me off on a beach. And he said, I want you to talk to these 10 couples that are on the beach, and he handed me a stack of 10 cards, and I want you to invite them. And he gave me kind of a pitch to talk, and I was absolutely terrified.
But I wasn't going to quit, and I wasn't going to not do it. And I talked to all 10 people, and then he drove me back to the resort. And in about a half-hour, one of them pulled into the parking lot. And he goes, "You just made 25 dollars'' ... And after that, I was averaging maybe 25 couples a week come in. At 15, I was earning really good money …
So I guess what I'm saying is he helped me realize that if you can overcome your fear to go out there and talk to people, you can create a lot of opportunities for yourself.
You also train employers on keeping employees engaged and enthusiastic. What do you advise?
Our research says you have to treat them as a valuable employee with skills, not a skillful employee that we value. What does that mean? You treat them with respect. You listen to them carefully. You give them opportunities to advance, grow in the company.
You do things as a leader through leadership development that makes them feel that they are part of what is going on.
Philip Morgan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3435. Sunday Conversation is edited for clarity and brevity.